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Upgrading a 2009 Gateway PC on a super tight budget (<150$)

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December 15, 2011 10:34:52 AM

Question: Will my ideas to upgrade my computer work, or is there a better way to upgrade my machine and still keep on budget?


Hey there,

To start, this is my first time on the forum, and this is also the first time I have ever researched about computer hardware and specs, so unsurprisingly I have never before assembled a PC before, nor upgraded one, nor overclocked, etc.

I own a 2009 Gateway model DX4200-09 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) and as of recently it has been unable to satisfy my gaming performance needs. I mainly have played older RTS games, such as WC3, and for a while WoW, and have had no problems whatsoever running these games.

The system runs an integrated GPU, HD Radeon 3200, and it is impressively capable for any game made prior to 2006 or so, but it just cannot cut it with modern games. EG Starcraft 2 plays around 20 FPS, and Id like to try Skyrim, but ive tested the game and it plays around 8 FPS.... So sad :( 


So, I have intentions of upgrading the machine, but I am limited to a very slim budget. <150$ most preferably


Here were my plans:

-- Upgrade the PCU from an extremely limited 300 watt unit to a 500 watt unit (ive seen go for ~22 bucks after rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


-- Swap the MB from the P.O.S. stock Gateway board (which has absolutely no special features: No overclocking abilities) to a AM2+ motherboard which supports overclocking (apparently, unless you can tell me otherwise), which costs ~43 bucks
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

my processor runs 65 watts standard, and this board will take CPU wattage up to 95, so I think this implies I can do some overclocking to my rather weak CPU.


-- Overclock the existing processor, a AMD Phenom X4 9150e from 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz
There was an article on this website about the processor being able to handle this easily. I have no idea how the stock fan would handle cooling it though; I cant afford any kind of extravagant cooling solution though. The CPU runs cool, around 35C while in use, so Id imagine it could take some cranking, even with the stock cooler.

info about processor:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-phenom-x4,1935....


-- On top of this, picking up a HD 5670 or HD 6670 GPU (both of which are in the $60-80 range). These dont require any plugins for additional power, so I think the PSU of 500W should handle either of them under load well.


Total cost: about 150 bucks after taxes and shipping



This is my first call on a PC upgrade so I am very uncertain of what would come of this. Maybe im spot on, or maybe im missing something completely, I have no idea, thats why im here ;) 

Thanks in advanced!
-Adam
December 15, 2011 10:47:50 AM

I forgot to mention,

Would such an upgrade even be economically feasible? Given, Im not making extreme upgrade to my machine, im trying to get as much performance increase per dollar as I can reasonably get to bring me up to semi modern gaming levels.

At 150 dollars, were talking about a decent amount of money, id rather not invest it at all if were talking about marginal increases in performance.
I know in comparison, 150 bucks is absolutely nothing to the enthusiast community here. heh

Any help is appreciated,
Thanks
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Best solution

a b ) Power supply
December 15, 2011 11:03:06 AM

If you change motherboards, you'll need a new windows coa for any non gateway board, unless you've already upgraded to windows 7, which will put you over budget.
Video card: http://www.amazon.com/ZOTAC-GeForce-Express-Graphics-ZT...
Power supply: http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-430-Watt-Certified-Compat.... This is a much better brand than apevia; newegg's price is cheaper, but my newegg links aren't working.
For the cpu: http://www.ebay.com/itm/AMD-Phenom-X4-9550-Quad-Core-De...
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December 15, 2011 1:32:14 PM

Overclocking this CPU will not help much because of how weak it is to begin with. I don't think you're going to get very far.

Also, consider that lots of times, cases that come with premade computers are not standard, so they might not fit every motherboard.

I think o1die's suggestions are pretty good, though there is always some risk with a used CPU.
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December 15, 2011 10:04:21 PM

Okay,
So obviously, the power supply needs to be replaced with one which can take more wattage, otherwise, the system has no upgrade capabilities.
So I was on the right track for that idea, though I was opting for a cheapo unit.

And I know installing a discrete graphics card to take over the role of my integrated unit is a good idea too, and there are quite a bit of options in the sub 100$ range. Tomshardware had an article on the best cards in that range, thats why I was checking out the HD 5670 and 6670.

However, for the CPU and motherboard, it looks like my idea isnt the best.

My system does run Vista (boo), not Windows 7, but I was unaware that the motherboard had anything to do with the specific OS and its certification.


Would you mind elaborating on that?
Or could you send me a link to I can read into it?
My knowledge about MB's isnt developed quite yet, so I could use some more sources.


I know my little quad core isnt impressive at 1.8 GHz, but I dont know how much of a performance I will get upgrading to a 2.2 GHz model.

Considering my current MB isnt very good, I figured that'd be something to invest into. And if I could go through this without buying a new CPU, that'd be awesome too. Thats why I thought overclocking it would be a solution.

The CPU is an energy saving model, so I think it is purposely clocked low to begin with, so Im certain it can take some clocking well.


Is buying a new CPU and keeping my existing MB really my best option?
[Opposed to keeping my CPU and buying a new MB]


I like the solutions, but the PC you linked is sold out unfortunately. >.<

Thanks for the help

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a b ) Power supply
December 16, 2011 12:05:33 AM

If you want to upgrade to windows 7 anyway, then get the new motherboard. Your power supply might work with the video card I recommended. It won't hurt to try it.
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December 16, 2011 12:17:27 AM

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) like Dell, HP, Gateway, etc...get a specialized version of the Windows operating system at reduced cost from Microsoft. In return it's their job to support any possible issues that pop up, and the software becomes locked down to that one specific system. Often times what this means is that changing out the motherboard violates the license and Windows will no longer work on the machine without entering a newly purchased windows key.

The good news is that self purchased Windows installations can be moved from machine to machine without an issue. The bad news is that it costs hundreds of dollars. (NOTE: You can also purchase Windows OEM copies from new egg for <$100 if you don't mind forgoing tech support from Microsoft).
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December 16, 2011 3:12:57 AM

87ninefiveone said:

...The good news is that self purchased Windows installations can be moved from machine to machine without an issue. The bad news is that it costs hundreds of dollars. (NOTE: You can also purchase Windows OEM copies from new egg for <$100 if you don't mind forgoing tech support from Microsoft).


If its of any use to know, I am a college student and have a .edu email address.

I think I read once that college students can get windows 7 for 30 bucks, or something like that, by registering a .edu email, but I dont know if such an offer exists anymore.

Has anyone heard about any promotion like that going on still?
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December 16, 2011 8:33:37 PM

Best answer selected by thenear1send.
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